BRISTOL >> Gilbert/Northwestern’s football team shocked Lewis Mills with a 41-12 blowout on a wicked hot Saturday afternoon at Muzzy Field.
“A day like this goes for us,” said Yellowjacket head coach Scott Salius. “Three hours and a cloud of dust is what we are.”
Depth, execution and conditioning were the keys to G/N’s big win in a year in which pre-season reports had the Jackets rebuilding and the Spartans coming back for more after a 7-3 season.
“We’re two-deep at fullback; two deep at slot back; two deep at tailback,” said Salius, who was still devoting most of his pre-season practice time to conditioning when most other teams were running through their playbooks.
“The plays will come,” he said then. “We want to build teamwork and character – let our guys find out what they can still do when they don’t want to do any more.”
Saturday was that day.
With temperatures in the 90s on the field, the Yellowjackets rotated players in and out to keep them fresh while the Spartans wilted and cramped in the heat.
“They turned the heat up and we gassed out,” said head coach Jose Santana. “Nine freshmen played in the second half.”
After a 7-6 first quarter, the difference began to tell.
Senior Billy Komons, a 5-10, 155-pound junior running back/corner back exuded the character Salius hoped for with two running touchdowns and a 6-yard scoring interception return as everything slid downhill for the Spartans.
Senior Yellowjacket Todd Holm broke four Spartan tackles on his way to a 42-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
Spencer Green was good for an eight-yard scoring sprint in the third quarter; junior quarterback Brad Lissy went 18 for a final score in the fourth.
“We had a great first quarter,” said Coach Santana, before the heat turned torturous.
In their game-opening drive, the Spartans looked like they might score every time they got the ball, with a mix of passes from quarterback Trevor Baker and a power running game featuring 5-10, 210-pound Mike Ciccarelli.
In 10 plays from their own 35, Mills landed in Gilbert’s end zone with a 23-yard pass from Baker to Chris Romano.
Starting near midfield, the Yellowjackets answered in seven plays with a Komons finishing five-yard run.
Mills’ only first-quarter miscue was a missed point-after kick.
Then the heat began to tell.
Gilbert drove deep into Mills territory early in the second, giving the ball up on downs. Komons picked off a pass to the flats, running it in alone for another touchdown.
A Mills drive stalled. Holm took off on his 42-yard scoring blitz.
With 7:50 left in the half, the fire already singed the Spartans.
With runners and linemen cramping, Baker went to the air, finally connecting on a 14-yard scoring strike to Jimmy Romano for a 21-12 halftime score.
The locker room was no help.
“Our game plan was just attacking,” said G/N’s Salius.
With inexperienced substitutes dotting the Mills second-half lineup, Gilbert’s own inexperienced line gained confidence.
“We have four new kids and they started working together,” said Salius. “We found we could run off tackle and it gave us another dimension.”
Spencer Green found eight yards and pay dirt early in the third quarter. Komons spun for a seven-yard score with 2:17 left in the period.
Lissy rambled 18 yards four-and-a-half minutes into the fourth period, sending in the remaining subs.
“It was a very tough loss,” said Coach Santana.
It was Gilbert/Northwestern’s kind of day.
Gilbert/Northwestern 41, Lewis Mills 12
At Muzzy Field, Bristol
Gilbert/Northwestern 7 14 13 7 – 41
Lewis Mills 6 6 0 0 – 12
LM – Chris Romano 23-yard pass from Trevor Baker (kick failed)
G/N – Billy Komons 5-yard run (Chris Nanni kick)
G/N – Komons 6-yard interception run (Nanni kick)
G/N – Todd Holm 42-yard run (Nanni kick)
LM – Jimmy Romano 14-yard pass from Baker (pass incomplete)
G/N – Spencer Green 8-yard run (Nanni kick)
G/N – Komons 7-yard run (kick failed)
G/N – Brad Lissy 18-yard run (Nanni kick)
Rushing: G/N – Jake Roth 4 carries/36 yards; Brad Lissy 4/52; E.J. Claman 2/36; Billy Komons 11/81/Spencer Green 6/31; Zack McClellan 1/6; Tom Yabrosky 2/2. LM – Mike Ciccarelli 8/32; Trevor Baker 6/42; Hunter Cowger 2/-4.
Passing: G/N – Brad Lissy 2 attempts/3 completions/31 yards. LM – Trevor Baker 12/32/164.
Receiving: G/N – Dylan Milligan 1 reception/23 yards; Ryan Valko 1/8. LM – Chris Romano 6/89; Austin Holland 3/15; Matt DeJoseph 1/36; Jimmy Romano 1/14; Cooper Mattiello 1/10.
Records: Gilbert/Northwestern 1-0; Lewis Mills 0-1.